Gabriel Kuri Water count bin, 2009 Painted metal, water, blue plastic bottles 23 5/8 x 17 3/8 inches Courtesy of the artist and Franco Noero Gallery, Turin

Earlier this month, I attended Blaffer Gallery’s Red Block Bash and enjoyed a fascinating docent-led tour through the gallery. Logo-like sculptures attracted my attention as I walked into the front gallery. Instantly, mind began to wonder with inspiration. A collection of small shampoo and soap bottles lined a wall, adorning the top of two marble slabs. The artist took the fundamental aesthetics of a hotel bathroom experience and presented a well-designed installation that forces the viewer to recognize packaging, shape, material and form.

Designers, we have a field trip. Gabriel Kuri: Nobody Needs to Know the Price of Your Saab is on view at Blaffer Gallery through November 13. I will paint my nails with masking fluid if you go and don’t enjoy it. This guy took pie graphs and made them into receptacles that sometimes contain water. I wanted to put my fingers in them but I just observed and carried on with my calculations. For one sculpture, he squished pretty little soda cans in between the pie slices. He transcends the graphic elements of information graphics into the truth of what they are. Elements of shape and form. Data removed. The sculptures look like life-size, dimensional representations of Illustrator files minus the text.

And it gets better. As I entered the gallery with the tallest ceilings, my jaw dropped to see giant tapestries, woven into replicas of store receipts. Even the smallest detail on each receipt is captured: slight blueish-purple hues from the printer, blocky type in various sizes, a barcode and of course, a charming list of items and prices. If you took them down, they’d make fabulous blankets for a designer cuddle but as wall-hangings, these conceptual master crafts are undeniably well done.

Gabriel Kuri Untitled (Superama III), 2005 Hand-woven wool tapestry 44 1/2 x 91 3/8 inches Private Collection

Also on display is a threaded stack of store receipts that stretches from ceiling to floor, a collection of compositions that incorporate printed materials and several arrangements that show off the impact and power of juxtaposition. How do used bars of soap become precious items worthy of contemplation? Exhibition design of course!

This exhibit is a must-see. It will remind you to get out of your think tank and remember that we are in the business of pretty. Not color and data per say, but shape and form, scale and composition. Design! If you call in advance, you can SCHEDULE A TOUR with a docent. All it costs is your own initiative. Even parking is free and available in the front row, reserved for Blaffer visitors. Take a lunch break, car pool and make some time for yourselves to go have a snack of some inspiring designer eye candy!

Blaffer Art Museum
Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
University of Houston
120 Fine Arts Building
Houston TX 77204

By Jessica Rios-Almanza
Published October 27, 2010
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